The sky is a little particle of dust fallen from heaven, just a rainbow colored sprinkle that oozes to life with the press of a child's finger. A tiny little hand that waves from the open window of a train as the countryside passes in and out of our vision, a tan blur of hillsides and bare branched trees. Small flecks of persimmons, bright as the harvest moon wizz by like a blur across a screen. Each panel passes, click, click, click, like fast edited scenes, and my memory captures it like the camera I never had. A woman with laundry in a wicker basket, hanging each item out in the sun pale autumn sun. The bare tree, full of sweet orange ornaments, just waiting for a farmer to harvest it or a poet to transform it. Honor this beauty! This silent gift that will stay, even after the years click on, tick, tick, tick, tick, as fast as the second hand on my pocket watch. It’s just feet from the passing train. The golden hills, the trees lined up in exact patterns, put precisely in their place at birth. Solid rows in each direction, we call them Berta trees.
The man comes for my ticket. I see him twenty feet down the aisle, sending fear through me as I see his official hat and bag filled with empty paper tickets to issue. I look for my ticket, but it’s lost in the red bag and I run to the bathroom, shepherded by the flock of boys who hope to squeeze into my pants. Their attention grows when the official passes and their arms begin to surround me and they keep asking "why, why?" but no, we can not make love in the train bathroom. I will not drop my cargo pants, stained in olive oil or lift my flannel shirt that, in and of itself, is an assault to the dictates of fashion. I see the tracks when I look into the toilet bowl, the gravel covered tracks are a fast moving deposit for our waste and I wonder about the people on either side of the tracks. Do their vegetables grow strong with the fertilizer? Do they sit on their porches in the setting afternoon sun and speculate at the passing people, moving by at 60 miles an hour, passing them forever, never to return.
And I want to talk to them and hang my laundry too and eat their orange fruit. But how can I ever return? There is no sign announcing the place. This is the place in between other places. It is lined by pretty bare trees and the orange fruit of fall and the gray clouds of coming storms that follow me like a welcomed plague. I only have one moment, one second, to freeze them in my mind.
The woman, with her dark blue skirt, large from a lifetime of pasta and pure green olive oil, hangs her laundry on the lines by the train. Will her clothes smell of silent stories and passing lives? Will their fibers hold the encapsulated gazes of those that saw them, just for a second? The white shirts on the line…the little jeans of a child, the long dark skirt of a humble woman.
Frozen in time, for once, the memory is even better than the camera, the camera I do not have. The language I do not posses.
12 hours later, we snake along the coastline, I see a beach so pretty, so tropical, with lush trees and flowers, and out the window is a vision of paradise with blue water and a little island, shaped like a bunt cake and topped with a medieval house like a candle holding the possibility of dreams. I look out the window, enraptured, this place… I have to know its name! Where am I?
I look to my right, out the window, looking for a sign, I smile in the beauty of this colorful land. I grab my paper and pen, ready for a sign, I hold still as the island passes quickly, the vision in my mind, the hope that I can find this place once again. I look up, in the seat across from me is an elderly nun, she smiles and says "Taormina." My eyes widen, I point out the window, I point down, indicating the earth… "Taormina?" I say. She nods and I hand her the paper and pen to right down the name. She smiles softly, her face an orb of kindness, of understanding.
She reads me, like the verses of her bible, she reads me, clear and loud. She knows. I feel warm, good to be known, for a second, good to be read, to be understood, without language, to be read like a book that hasn’t yet faded into oblivion, to be ingested like a landscape that passes so fast by my window that I can only barely grasp it in the tenuous theater of my mind.